Arabic is one of the most beautiful languages of the world--and one of the most rewarding to learn.
Renowned writers like Mahmoud Darwish used Arabic to spread poetry all over the world. During the Islamic Golden Age, scholars grasped algebra and optics for the first time in human history, and recorded their discoveries in Arabic. Writers of the Quran even called Arabic the language of God.
Today, as the official language of 22 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, Arabic boasts 422 million speakers. You can be the next one. It’s easier than ever to learn Arabic online.
Resources for further reading:
You might be a little nervous about getting started. After all, the language has a reputation for being incredibly difficult. Even the CIA thinks so; it ranked Modern Standard Arabic in the highest category in terms of how long it takes to reach working proficiency. The CIA estimates that it will take 2,200 class hours before you get a good grasp of the language. It ranks alongside Mandarin and Japanese.
But don’t let this scare you off! With the right tips, tricks and strategies, you can cut straight to what you really need to know about Arabic. Focus on what’s most important, and you can have conversations about politics, sports and culture in no time.
So what are the right strategies? First, throw out your wrinkled high school textbooks. No more boring worksheets, no more dusty flashcards. Your new language-learning process is going to be fun and dynamic--and it’s much faster than you think.
How do you begin?
Yallah! That means, let’s go!
Tackle the pronunciation first--those sounds aren’t as tricky as they look!
The habits that you form at the beginning of your Arabic-learning journey will stick with you to the end. This is a good thing! If you create good habits now, they’ll become second-nature as you reach higher levels. You might be eager to skip ahead to having fluent conversations with native speakers, but take your time at this step. You’ll be glad you did.
That said, don’t pressure yourself to get everything absolutely perfect this time around. Arabic has several sounds that don’t appear in the English language, and it will take a little time (and a lot of listening practice) before you can master them all.
So make sure that you pay attention to technique, but don’t feel discouraged if you don’t sound like a native speaker.
What’s important? Focus on being understood. As long as people can comprehend what you’re saying, that’s what matters.
Good news: You don't need to sound “perfect” in order to be understood. In fact, having an accent can come in handy. Not only does it signal to native speakers that you’ve taken the time to learn their language (which they often appreciate!) but it also encourages them to be patient with your mistakes. They may even provide handy tips to help you improve.
Now that you have the confidence to speak, ask yourself, which dialect do you want to learn? That’s right, there’s more than one form of Arabic!
For example, Modern Standard Arabic is just that--a standard Arabic across many countries that you’ll find in speeches, in newspapers and in some religious texts. But you won’t hear it spoken on the streets.
Colloquial Egyptian Arabic (Masri), on the other hand, works almost as a lingua franca across the Arab world due to the popularity of Egyptian television and music. Many Arabic pop songs, for example, use Egyptian Arabic even if the singer isn’t from Egypt.
Egyptian Arabic is the most widely spoken and understood dialect across the Middle East and North Africa. That’s why the Rocket Language course focuses on it.
But by some counts, there are more than 30 different Arabic dialects! The language you hear in Morocco will sound words away from what you would hear in Dubai.
Therefore, when practicing your pronunciation, make sure you pick a guide tailored to the dialect you want.
Okay, so once you’ve settled on a dialect, how do you actually get started with your pronunciation? Speak out loud as much as possible.
Look at an overview of Arabic pronunciation, such as the one here, to find a list of words and sounds to help you practice. Try out the shadowing technique to learn where the stresses fall in each word, even if you don’t understand what you're saying. Compare a recording of yourself with one of a native speaker, or swap the recording with a Tandem partner for advice.
Voice recognition is your friend. Rocket Arabic’s voice recognition feature types out what you’re saying as you’re saying it, so you can get real-time feedback. It also returns a score to let you know how well you’re doing.
Rocket Record lets you perfect your Arabic pronunciation. Just listen to the native speaker audio and then use the microphone icon to record yourself. Once you’re done, you’ll get a score out of 100 on your pronunciation and can listen to your own audio playback. (Use a headset mic for best results.) Problems? Click here!
Practice your pronunciation with these examples:
Learn your ABTs: alif, ba, ta!
One of the most beautiful parts of Arabic is also the most intimidating--at least at first. We’re talking about the alphabet.
The alphabet is beautiful, and the calligraphy is breathtaking, but at first glance it might not make much sense to you.
That’s okay! We have good news: The alphabet is actually one of the easiest parts of Arabic to learn. You can pick it up in just a few days, if not hours.
Here are a few fast facts to get you started:
To learn how to write the Arabic alphabet, including proper hand placement, take a look at a few of the Rocket Arabic videos, grab a blank sheet of paper and get ready to draw.
Check out this example:
It’s okay if your handwriting feels a little shaky at first--soon it will be smooth and clear. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even master calligraphy one day.
Learn the most important information first.
You know how to write each letter. And you know how to pronounce each sound. Now it’s time to learn some words so that you can really start speaking.
Build your vocabulary by starting with the basics and then slowly working up to more complex topics. Soon you’ll be able to connect words into phrases, link phrases into complete sentences and use sentences in everyday dialogue.
But start small. Arabic greetings are a great place to begin. When you know how to say hello, you’re on your way to making new friends.
After that, move on to months and days of the week in Arabic. This will help you make plans with those new friends you just made.
Then get a little more descriptive. Learn colors. Chat about your clothes. Describe your house. Practice by looking at your surroundings and putting Arabic words to the things you see every day. If you like working with your hands, go a step further by slapping sticky notes on household objects.
Soon you’ll be able to think directly in Arabic without translating, which is how you know you’re on your way to proficiency!
Learn Arabic by simply pressing play.
Plug in your headphones or charge up your earbuds. It’s time to learn on the go. The best way? Audio courses and podcasts.
With the Rocket Arabic interactive audio course, you’ll listen to an everyday dialogue between two native speakers. An Arabic teacher will break down each line of the dialogue so that you fully understand what’s happening. You can use what you learned the next time you’re walking through Cairo.
While you’re at it, check out a few Arabic podcasts. Don’t worry, you don't have to jump straight into a native-level news program. Start with a slower-paced show made for learners. You don’t need to understand every single word right away. That will come in time.
The first time you listen, focus on getting used to the sounds of Arabic. Learn simple things like where one word ends and another begins. See which words you recognize.
The more you listen, the easier comprehension will become. As you pick up more and more Arabic words, start trying to gather meaning from what you hear. Do some words keep popping up again and again? Look them up! Make a list to review. Things will click into place.
Bonus tip: Choose a podcast about something that interests you! Then “studying”--whether it’s in your car or during your morning jog around the block--won’t feel like work. Simply press play.
Check out this sample Audio lesson from Rocket Arabic.
Think of grammar like a puzzle, not a problem.
If you spent your school years hunched over a textbook, forced to memorize irregular conjugations in a foreign language, then the word “grammar” might make you shudder. But never fear! Grammar can actually be interesting.
Grammar isn’t just a system of strict rules that determine what is right and what is wrong in a language. Grammar is like a secret key to unlocking a language: At its core, it’s simply a handful of patterns that repeat themselves. The more you practice, the easier you’ll learn the patterns, and the more natural they’ll feel--and therefore, the easier it will be for you to speak.
Because the same patterns repeat themselves over and over, learning just the basics will get you pretty far. So don’t be intimidated by advanced grammar rules. You don’t need to master the Arabic case system, for example, in order to be understood. You can have a complex conversation just by grasping and building on the fundamentals.
Take a peek at Arabic grammar by starting with greetings. Greetings, for example, can change slightly based on gender, formality, time of day and even religion. Familiarize yourself with the fascinating differences, which can also teach you about the culture.
It’s not how much you study, but how you study, that matters.
Work smarter, not harder. That’s the key to success in every area of your life, especially when it comes to language learning.
To make the most of your Arabic study time, try these hacks:
Go a little more in-depth with these tips to learning Arabic efficiently.
Use the spaced repetition system to hack your brain into remembering more.
There’s nothing more frustrating than spending an hour learning vocabulary, only to return to the words a week later and realize you’ve forgotten it all.
To learn effectively, take advantage of the spaced repetition system. This system says that instead of just once, you should review your vocabulary words in intervals based on how well you know each word. Review unfamiliar words more often, and familiar words less often.
Reinforcement activities are a great way to naturally review information from previous topics so that you retain it longer. Check out how well you know the phrases in this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities below!
And when you’re ready to start seriously learning Arabic online, take a free trial of Rocket Arabic.
Reinforce your learning from this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities!